Category Archives: Movies

“The Babadook” is so close to being great it’s scary

BABADOOK-Book

“The Babadook” was one of the most talked about horror movies of 2014. The film has a Metascore of 86 and a Rotten Tomatoes fresh rating of 98%. But for me, like a sprinter prematurely celebrating meters before the finish line as he is overtaken by another runner, it fell short of excellence at the end.

Although I feel “The Babadook” was a strong film—not just a fine horror film, but quite a dramatic achievement—I found myself underwhelmed as the credits rolled. Screenrant said, “While ‘The Babadook’ is a well-crafted, insightful, and overall excellent film, it’s not going to be for everyone.” I think this movie would be “for everyone” if it not for the lame reveal and conclusion.

“The Babadook” is the directorial debut of Australian actress-turned-filmmaker Jennifer Kent. The story follows Amelia Vannick (Essie Davis), a grieving mother to a problem child Samuel (Noah Wiseman) as she copes with the loss of her husband, who died in a car accident driving her to the hospital to deliver their son. Their troubles multiply when they find a strange children’s book about a man named Mister Babadook. For the Vannick family, Mister Babadook is more than just a children’s story.

But what the movie is really about, and where it excels in its storytelling, is grief. It is well crafted with multiple layers of meaning. Mister Babadook merely is a physical stand-in for the pain of loss and the coping with grief. And as Sam reiterates, “You can’t get rid of the Babadook.” Indeed, you cannot get rid of loss; cannot permanently do away with grief.

BABADOOK-Ameilia and Sam at Table

The film’s lead role and one of its biggest achievements is Essie Davis. Davis is transformative as Amelia Vannick. It’s a phenomenal performance by a gifted actor in the hands of an actor’s director (Kent was an actress for two decades, even graduating alongside Davis). She weaves in and out of drastic emotions: exhaustion, hopelessness, groveling, embarrassment, eventually psychosis, and then rage like I haven’t seen in recent cinema. I say this without any sexism: Davis’ outbursts are stronger than any male counterpart’s.

BABDOOK-Scream

Kent cites “The Shining” as inspiration. This is most prevalent in Davis’ Jack Torrance-like transformation from a flawed but always trying to be a good parent to an extremely aggressive threat to her own child.

Screenrant said, “Where other horror films cast mother figures as strident protectors, Amelia is far less heroic (at times) and, for that reason, significantly more relatable—placing the audience inside a haunted home where the horror isn’t always black and white.”

BABADOOK-Closet

Kent is an admirable storyteller with a unique understanding of the craft, as both actress and filmmaker. Upon graduating from the National Institute of Dramatic Art in 1991, she worked primarily as an actor for two decades. But towards the end of the 90s, she was losing her passion for acting and reached out to Danish director Lars von Trier, who then gave her a job assisting on the set of “Dogville” (2003). Wikipedia states, “she considers the experience her film school, citing the importance of stubbornness as the key lesson she learned.”

Kent weaves an impressively complex, honest story. At no moment did anything ring untrue to me—and we’re talking about a supernatural monster movie. But then again, we’re not. Because the monsters and the horror elements of “The Babadook” are not other worldly, they’re deeply rooted in the human condition. The monster is grief, the pain is loss, and the decisions are driven by a need to cope with loss and grief.

Kent said that she sought to tell a story about facing up to the darkness within ourselves, the “fear of going mad” and an exploration of parenting from a “real perspective”. In regard to parenting, Kent further explained, “Now, I’m not saying we all want to go and kill our kids, but a lot of women struggle. And it is a very taboo subject, to say that motherhood is anything but a perfect experience for women.”

I’m not a woman, I’m not a mother, and I’ve never wanted to kill my son. But I get, without any sense of morbid irony, why Amelia could contemplate stabbing her son to death. He is difficult, he is problematic, and he does not make her life any easier. The love of her life, the father of her child, is killed driving her to the hospital to deliver the boy. That scenario alone brings up a very tough question with a simple answer. Can a mother feel resentment towards her child because her husband is killed in the process of bringing the boy into the world? Simply, yes. She can. That is a perfectly acceptable emotion to feel in that situation. Kent’s dedication to honest portrayals of taboo subjects is inspiring.

Kent’s storytelling honesty is rightfully heralded. Tim Teeman at The Daily Beast states that the film informs the audience that grief has its place and the best that humans can do is “marshal it”. Egyptian national film critic Wael Khairy concluded that the film is “based on something very real” and “feels unusually beautiful and even therapeutic.”

“The Babadook” is shot by Radek Ladczuk with an Arri Alexa and Zeiss Master Prime lenses in 2.35 : 1 aspect ratio. According to Wikipedia, “The film’s final color scheme was achieved without the use of gels on the camera lenses or any alterations during the post-filming stage.”

In a monster movie, genre fans want to see an interesting visual creature. Kent insisted on a low-fi and handmade approach to Mister Babadook.  They favored practical elements, using stop-motion effects for the monster with a large amount of smoothening completed in post-production.

Kent explained to the Empire publication: “There’s been some criticism of the lo-fi approach of the effects, and that makes me laugh because it was always intentional. I wanted the film to be all in camera.”

Kent’s minimalistic portrayal of the Babadook monster might be a wet dream for certain horror fans, but in my personal opinion, I hated it. I wanted more. I’m not someone who needs over stimulation or constant full frontal monster imagery. “Jaws” and “Alien” are more frightening for their forced restraint. But Kent does such an expert job of building suspense, what with the beautiful art in the children’s book, the half-second inserts of the monster in the background, that it demanded some sort of substantial reveal. There is a reveal, I just didn’t like it. When we were meant to climax, we were forcefully restrained. Who likes that?

Kent’s impressive eye for visual storytelling is displayed by Amelia’s moments of slumber. A very early Hitchcock image where she floats down onto the bed is at once dreamy and nightmarish. Later, sleep is no longer a fantastical elaborate camera move but a static image. Through Amelia’s insomnia, we see her barely coherent, almost comatose as she watches television all night. I can feel how tired she is. I’ve been there. It’s a feeling of mental instability. Lack of sleep is real life, real pain, and everyday torture. It’s a major subplot for Amelia’s character.

Kent’s direction and Davis’ performance are flawless from scene to scene on just what a woman would really feel at varying stages of insomnia: at moments she has frustrated outbursts of rage and other times she is in a sort of loopy bliss when she nods off despite her son asking her to make him something to eat. I feel the pain and I feel the bliss of giving up.

On an aside, I was impressed with the design on the character’s hairdos by the hair and makeup department. Early shots of Amelia show her hair unkempt and staticy. So is her son’s. She looks tired and not put together. Later, at her niece’s birthday party, we see a group of mothers the same age as the tired Amelia, but they all look impeccable, well rested, happy, and thematically significant, they have great hair perfectly in place.

My biggest problem with the movie, aside from the monster reveal, is the resolution. I find it pretentious, too on-the-nose, and anti-climactic for a movie that brilliantly builds towards a reveal. The pacing is flawless. The attention to craft and mood is expert. But I find the final series of “monster point-of-view” shots of Amelia literally feeding the beast locked away in her basement (see why I say it’s pretentious?) rather dull. In fact, when the screen cuts to black after a way-too-nostalgic resolution shot of Amelia hugging tight to her problem child, I found myself infuriated as I awaited the first credit title card to confirm my suspicions that yep, that’s it.

Syvology on the MIshka NYC Bloglin said the film’s ending reminds the viewer that such matters continually exists in the “basement” of the unconscious and are “dealt with as-needed.” The “basement of the unconscious” being represented by an actual basement is as subtle as a drunk pervert.

But I digress because certainly I’m bitching about an overall good movie. I recently praised “It Follows” for its personal horror and emotionally fused story. “The Babadook” does this even more masterfully I think. But, “It Follows” had a better ending with its hokey booby trap at the pool hall.

My feelings for “The Babadook” are mostly positive and focused on the craftsmanship of a character driven horror story. But I didn’t “love” the movie. My demand for a big reveal, a real scary moment at the end, is lowbrow. But I stick to it.

I’m a filmmaker so I analyze movies more than most. I can’t always sit back and enjoy a movie the way I did growing up, when I loved whatever my mom took me to see at the Franklin Mills theatre across the street.

“The Babadook” had me gripped and waiting for the payoff the way I used to as a kid in a matinee showing, sitting in the dark and sharing a small popcorn with my mom. I eagerly waited for an inspired closer. Unfortunately, I didn’t get it. Despite all of my appreciation for the craftsmanship, I was still that kid in the movie theatre, a little older, as the credits rolled and the lights went up. I looked over to my mom and asked, “what did you think?” And she shrugged her shoulders and said “it was okay.”

The Babadook

‘It Follows’ Review: Best New Horror Movie in Years

IT FOLLOWS-Jay in Car

It Follows” is technically a 2014 movie, but with its wide theatrical release this past weekend (seeing even popular festival movies in my local non-NYC/LA theatre is getting rarer and rarer), it is currently my reigning favorite of 2015.

David Robert Mitchell’s sophomore effort, “It Follows” is an anxious, nightmare logic horror film about Jay Heights (played by the lovely and talented Maika Monroe from Adam Wingard’s The Guest and Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring) doing the deed with an older boy and now, uh-oh, she’s cursed. Mitchell’s movie is not merely about a girl labeled as a “slut” but as someone actually cursed by having sex, someone who is now being stalked by her deed in the form of an amorphous monster that can take the shape of anyone—strangers, or even people she loves. This boogey man stalks her from a distance, approaching slowly at a walk, hoping to grab hold of her and kill her off once and for all.

“It Follows” touches on the anxieties of many virgin (or not quite virgin) teenagers fixing to do the deed, as Nic Cage in “Peggy Sue Got Married” would say, “What, you mean sex? Ha ha, intercourse. You wanna have intercourse?”. Mitchell harnesses this anxiety wonderfully into an expertly crafted genre picture that is nostalgic of movies from the 1970s/1980s (for me, it touches the same nerve as the original “Nightmare on Elm Street”).

IT FOLLOWS-Mirror WS

“It Follows” looks great. Shot on the Arri Alexa and Red Epic, Director of Photography Mike Gioulakis (“John Dies at the End”) creates a cold, eerie world ripe with pretty colors and people in desolate Detroit.

As Variety put it, “As Mitchell explained at the pic’s premiere in Cannes, ‘It Follows’ marks his attempt to make a ‘beautiful horror movie’ — equal parts gentle and aggressive.  At times, his meticulous compositions rival Gregory Crewdson’s ethereal suburban-gothic photographs.”

Untitled from Beneath the Roses (2003–2005) Gregory Crewdson
Untitled from Beneath the Roses (2003–2005) Gregory Crewdson

A friend of mine commented that “It Follows” reminded him of Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2011 proof-in-digital-filmmaking-excellence “Drive”. I was a little thrown off by this. It took reading Mitchell’s quote on a “beautiful horror movie” to understand the “Drive” reference. Just as “Drive” was a beautifully violent movie, “It Follows” is a beautifully eerie movie.

The movie starts off with a 360-degree camera pan around a Detroit suburban street as a teenager runs out of her house in her pajamas (and high heels), seemingly fleeing for her life from a presence we (and her neighbor) cannot see. The actress does a wonderful job of registering the fear in one frame, then backpedaling when she realizes nobody can see her assailant, playing it off, running back inside, and returning to speed off in the family car.

Filmmaker Magazine on the 360-degree shot: “Unlike dopamine-inducing mood enhancers, the opening sequence of unique hybrid ‘It Follows’ aims for atmosphere, not climax…It is cinematic foreplay, simultaneously tease and microcosm. Over the span of several minutes, David Robert Mitchell succinctly anticipates not only the plotline of the narrative, but also its themes and infrastructure.”

As an avid fan of Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Boogie Nights”, I’ve always loved the 360-degree pan. Anderson’s scripted circular shot around Eddie Adams’ bedroom early in the film is both evocative and appropriate. Like the opening of “It Follows”, Eddie’s wall posters of bikini babes and muscles cars, his massive dong squeezed into a tight pair of undies, his practicing kung fu moves in the mirror; all these elements “anticipate not only the plotline of the narrative, but also its themes and infrastructure.”

A similar nod to Anderson would be the use of an extreme close-up of Jay in a hospital bed. There are not many close-ups in “It Follows”. In fact, mostly wide angle Cooke S4 lenses are used for the film’s entirety. Paired with the 2.35 : 1 wide screen aspect ratio, we are constantly looking over the character’s shoulder for the spooky “It”. So when we do get a close-up, it packs a punch. The ECU of Jay’s bloody bandage, with its fine focus and heavy falloff, is reminiscent of “Boogie Nights” many close-ups, shot with anamorphic zoom lenses.

IT FOLLOWS-Head Wound INSERT
“It Follows” Extreme Closeup
boogie_nights_-_close-ups_objects_etc_1-1
“Boogie Nights” Extreme Closeup

The movie’s beauty is chiefly displayed when Jay has sex with Hugh in the back of his car in an abandoned lot. The shot is used prominently in the trailer and was the main image I remembered other than Maika Monroe in her pink bra strapped to a wheelchair.

IT FOLLOWS-Car

Variety said, “If ‘Myth (of the American Sleepover)’was his John Hughes homage, then ‘It Follows’ is the director’s best stab at doing John Carpenter.” The parallel to John Hughes is interesting and isn’t lost on “It Follows”. Particularly, in his regard to sex and how he treats the teenage, sometimes goofy choices of his characters with the utmost respect.

Filmmaker Magazine had an interesting look on the sex scenes: “Her (Jay) enervating encounter with Hugh and Greg’s comforting presence are catalysts for sparks of desire, with Jay at the apex of a triangle including both Greg and Paul. Atypically for teen flicks, sex among the trio is fairly pleasure-free, especially for Jay, who performs like the cold wife in I-have-a-headache jokes.”

IT FOLLOWS-Front Lawn

Sex is never really shown for pleasure’s sake, which actually makes the sex scenes some of the most interesting to date. Whether it’s Jay riding Hugh in the backseat of his car moments before being chloroformed, Greg eagerly pumping Jay in her hospital bed under the guise of wanting to understand what she’s seeing (a very clever take on the lengths men will go through to get laid), Paul’s awkward attempts to capitalize on bedding Jay finally being fulfilled towards the end of the film, or the intense sequence where Jay strips and paddles out into the water towards a boat full of men, presumably to pass the curse off to one or all of the men aboard.

The sex serves a purpose to Jay that is not pleasure. It aids the plot, so that we’re not merely watching teens bone for the hell of it. As Desiree Akhavan (“Appropriate Behavior”) put it, “To me, the best sex scenes are not about sex. There has to be a reason we’re watching them fuck.”

IT FOLLOWS-Underwear Mirror

Mitchell asks the question, “what happens when you have sex?” What stigmas linger after? What have you lost? What stains your soul post-coitus? What happens if you don’t have sex? Since, in his narrative, the only way to get rid of the monster, the curse, like the curse of being thought a virgin in the teen world, is to have sex with someone. Not only do you have to have sex with someone, but now that person has to have sex someone else or “the curse” comes back to you. This is a monster of spreading sexuality without any of the pleasure. It’s not about enjoying it, it’s about getting it over with.

The soundtrack and production design were both winners. The score was composed by Rich Vreeland, better known as Disasterpeace. I love the electronic score that has been playing in Adam Wingard’s movies and now Mitchell’s. It’s very cool and effective and pairs nicely with digital imagery. Electronic music, digital imagery, it’s a match!

In “It Follows”, technology is never rooted in any specific place or time. The TV sets are the old box kind with rabbit ears. There are landline telephones. The cars in the suburbs of Motor City are all outdated. Yet, one of the characters resembles a modern day hipster and is seen regularly reading from a seashell shaped, makeup compact-like e-reader that is not of this world, or maybe futuristic. The effect is that this movie is not a throwback to the 1970s/1980s anymore than it is a modern storyline. It is timeless. It is iconic.

Mitchell on production design in Filmmaker Magazine: “Those were all used to place the film a little bit outside of time, like in a dream or a nightmare, but there are elements from several decades, from the ’50s to now to things that don’t actually exist. When you watch it, you start to pick up on these elements, and it’s a little disconcerting, and in the back of your mind, you’re searching for something to ground you and tell you where you’re at. We were trying to avoid all that. I worked really closely with the production designer, and he did a great job of mixing and matching all these pieces. It leans in the direction of the ’70s and ’80s, but it’s a nice mix.”

IT FOLLOWS-Jay Pool

Mitchell is an exciting filmmaker because he seems to be going against an idea I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. It’s an idea implanted in my brain by a comment Bret Easton Ellis made on one of his opinionated podcasts. He states that younger filmmakers haven’t lived life enough to make original art. To paraphrase, Ellis says younger artists choose their decisions in their movies based not on what they know about life, but rather what they’ve already seen in movies.

I’m still debating how I feel about this comment but it did get me thinking about movies that I like very much, particularly Wingard’s “You’re Next”. Going further, Wingard’s latest movie “The Guest” is an even bigger throwback to older horror movies, a blend between John Carpenter’s “Halloween” and “The Bourne Identity”. You can throw Ti West’s “House of the Devil” in this mix as well, as the only thing I liked about that movie was its 1980s look and pace.

Ellis got me thinking is nostalgia for old movies I like a reason to like new movies? I’m sure in some ways the answer is yes. But it doesn’t quell the question of where will our new horror movie come from if we spend all our time referencing older horror movies? Then again, this has worked for Quentin Tarantino.

I think Mitchell’s “It Follows” is as close as any to an original horror picture. Although I think his movie is very similar to Wingard’s style (Maika Monroe, electronic soundtrack, 1980s aesthetic), at the heart of “It Follows” is something very personal to the director. And not personal the way I think things are for Wingard, which, for kids who grew up loving movies, references to movies we love are very personal.

But Mitchell taps into something deeper than love for movies, he taps into his feelings.

He taps into his own dreams: “I had it when I was very young, the nightmare. I had it several times and I still remember images from it. I didn’t use those images for the film, but the basic idea and the feeling I used. From what I understand, it’s an anxiety dream. Whatever I was going through at that time, my parents divorced when I was around that age, so I imagine it was something to do with that.”

Mitchell isn’t drawing his horror elements from things he has seen in movies, (although he does know horror movies), he draws them from his own life.

The point here is that if you want to make something new and exciting, something nobody has seen before, something, I believe, like “It Follows”, then you have to break away from pastiche and get back to the roots of art, which is to express whatever you inherently know to be true, the way you know it, and the way you feel it. The way we feel Mitchell’s anxiety in “It Follows”.

A Blog Suffers When You’re Trying to Make a Movie

I knew it has been a while since my last blog post, but I didn’t realize that today marks two months exactly since I last posted. Yikes. My apologies to anyone that has been anxiously waiting for my next post. (I’m aware that with that last sentence I’ve subjected myself to crickets chirping throughout the internet kingdom.)

I’m proud to say there’s a good reason why I haven’t been actively contributing to this beloved blog: I’ve been writing. Yes, I’ve been hard at work feverishly working on a new feature screenplay that was designed to be affordable enough to make myself on a shoestring budget. I’m ecstatic with the results and am proud to say it’s been my fastest turnaround on a feature yet. I wrote the first draft in two weeks and am already finished a solid rewrite. You wanna hear what it’s about? (I’m smiling and nodding at the computer like Natalie Portman in Garden State when she asks if Zach Braff wants to help her bury her dead hamster.)

Here’s a synopsis of my newest, coolest feature screenplay, a slasher/comedy entitled Die, Hipster! Die!:

When a group of pretentious college hipsters anger a gypsy fortune teller with their shallow youth culture, she summons James Mean, the Patron Saint of Cool from Hell to wipe out their hipster house party. It’s up to Luke and Brea, the only non-hipsters in attendance, to put a stop to this demon’s Crusade for Cool and to prove that there are still young people with character in this age of Wayfarers and Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Screenplay and log line experts of the internet community please don’t rip my way-too-long synopsis to shreds! I like it. But anyway, it’s a super cool, really funny, pretty hip, and original script that I’m proud to be moving forward with. Some Philadelphia actors love it and I’ve even gotten it into the hands of a few local producer types.

Major problem is money of course. I hoped to just start filming it this month and crowd raise funds as I went but of course, my ambition might have overshadowed my means a little, but only slightly. I’m going to get my “ducks in a row” as one producer mentioned and try to do this right. Who knows, it could be my The Evil Dead!

I’ve had a pretty good, productive journey writing and rewriting this thing. I started Transcendental Meditation in January (something I wanted to start blogging about but didn’t get around to) and I have to say I’ve noticed an increase in my productivity and problem solving when it comes to my writing. I can’t chalk my success with this screenplay completely up to TM, I feel like this moment was coming for a while. But there has to be something said about Die, Hipster! Die! being the quickest feature I’ve written post-meditation.

I was so excited to get up every day with a solid plan of attack: shower, meditate, and write. And not just blindly writing; I knew exactly what I should do next. Now, I have pretty close to what my finished product will look like and I’m in a writing rut. I want to write something! This whole process has been like riding yet another high wave that drops me off on the shoreline, leaving me to watch it roll back into the sea. That’s a feeling I’m used to and an analogy I beat into the sand. But hopefully, with a little help from TM, I can limit my turnaround time of how long I stand on the shore before paddling back out into the water.

This blog post starts up the writing process again. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me making DH!D! a reality on the movie screen. It’s an exciting process that I’m looking forward to. But there’s no reason I can’t be writing the next script in the meantime. As Robert Rodriguez advises in his book Rebel Without a Crew, “be scary.” Constantly working, constantly be moving ahead on your next big idea, always being original; that is frightening. Be scary, my friends. Keep writing.

 

Gone Fishin’: How to Catch Big Ideas in Deep Water

English: David Lynch, photographed on 10 Augus...
David Lynch, doing his signature spirit finger motion when discussing ideas floating around,photographed on 10 August 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I like quotes. I have spent many hours copying and pasting quotes from artists I admire into my Evernote app for further handheld inspiration. Recently I’ve been diving head first into the work of filmmaker David Lynch. I seem to find I have some things in common with Lynch, at least I perceive so. Specifically, I hold a great deal of admiration for his imagination and his idea generating process. In many interviews, Lynch refers to ideas as fish and his extended conscious-mind as a pond where these idea-fish are swimming around, waiting to be caught. Lynch says:

“Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper. Down deep, the fish are more powerful and more pure. They’re huge and abstract. And they’re very beautiful.”

 

I’m not embarrassed at all to say that quotes like this send me gushing like a teenage girl at a rock concert, (or a Justin Bieber/Taylor Swift festival. Is that what teen girls gush over now?)

Lynch’s rationale that we all have great ideas swimming around in our subconscious, waiting to be found and explored, is enlightening and liberating. He admits to not knowing the best way or even if there is a way of locating these ideas and bringing them to the surface. They just kind of come, sometimes when you least expect it, and you have to be ready for them. A forgotten idea can drive an artist mad, so keep your pen and paper (or trusty Evernote app) handy.

This journey into the “deep water” of one’s soul is not necessarily a Lynch original. I can recall a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald, “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” I love that quote. Writers must pain themselves and even torture their souls in order to squeeze the pulpy prose from their juicy brains. Good writing is about feeling something on a very deep level and having the courage to push forward, through the emotion and onto the page.

Even before reading this Fitzgerald quote, my first encounter with the term “deep water” came in a creative writing class where I met my current hero and greatest teacher, poet Christopher Bursk. Chris, whom would be agitated to be referred to by his last name in this post or in the classroom, spoke regularly about the importance of paddling out into deep water in order to write beautifully. Our assignments were often exercises in swimming in deep water; write a poem about something you regret, write about a person you would benefit from being dead, or the self-indulging, soul scrutinizing personal “Song of Myself” that we’d have to write and share in front of the class.

The greatest advice from Chris on writing about deep water was a story he’d tell us about taking his son to swimming lessons. The swimming instructor said the best technique for swimming out of deep waters and to the shore was the dead man’s float; where you put your head under and trust the water to keep you afloat as you paddle forward.

This is of course true for writing. Much like Fitzgerald’s quote, sometimes you have to trust that the pain or longing of the deep water will keep you afloat and just start paddling, start putting the words on the page, and eventually you’ll make it ashore.

These quotes and this advice have helped me channel emotions into some of my best writing. It’s a constant struggle though but I’m content with battling every day. It’s a compulsion to want to strike out every day in hopes of getting that good idea, catching that big fish.

I was thinking of myself, Lynch’s quote, and came up with an analogy. If you’re ever uncertain of why you can’t come up with a good idea, look at the process as you would look at fishing. When you go out fishing, they don’t always bite. Fishing is all about patience. Staring at your rod or checking your hook constantly won’t make the fish come any quicker. Sometimes you just have to lie back and let your thoughts drift when all the sudden you see your line bob and you scurry to your pole, your pen and paper, and start reeling the fish in.

Some people are better at coming up with ideas than others, just like there are master fisherman in the world. In this regard, I think I’d say I’m a talented idea fisherman. I get ideas, sometimes several ideas, every day and I try to be a work horse in order to get them all into a project, down on paper. For the analogy’s sake, I’m good at getting fish to take the bait. But I will say that I have trouble catching the big fish. I’m young and still learning to explore myself and be honest with my emotions.

If I do manage to hook a big fish, a great idea, I often find I have trouble reeling it in and getting it onto the boat. Or worse, sometimes when I do get these big fish onto the boat, adapted into a story or script concept, my ship sinks before I land safely ashore. Sometimes my emotional state implodes unexpectedly and my ship, my safety, submerges with all the ideas and ambition onboard.

So what’s left when I hit the water, away from the safety of the vessel? Usually I panic and suck in a lot of water. But then I remember the wisdom of my heroes, I put my head under the current and start paddling towards land. And sometimes I’ll find I’ve carried one of those big fish along with me as I step onto the sand.

Abuse of Social Media Makes for Good Entertainment: 2 Celebrities Who Stand Out Among the Rest

The internet is the modern day wild west. And just like every character in a western film owns a gun, everybody these days has a smart phone in holster linked to Twitter, Facebook, and blogging accounts. However, as westerns have shown us, not every gunslinger was a good shot and not every modern day corpulent social media cowboy hits the target.

“Sext me.”

Celebrities can be particularly annoying when stepping out of their field of expertise; whether that is film, music, science, etc, and start unloading their personalities on the world via tweets. There are those uber-cheerful celebs that ask their millions of followers “How are you today?” as if they care to read the responses of every ugly low-life on their feed. Sometimes there are even celebrities that just like to stroke the ego, via Twitter, of other celebrities so that everyone can see how cool they are, being famous together and all.

But sometimes you get those wild card celebrities that act out in social media. They use their accounts as a platform of assault on a world that doesn’t get to see them on a daily basis. Two people that use Twitter and blogging distinctly originally are author Bret Easton Ellis and pornographer James Deen.

Bret Easton Ellis is the critically acclaimed author of American Psycho and other novels, some of which have been adapted into Hollywood movies. Although Ellis has had his fair share of criticism regarding the harsh subject matter in his books, he is typically forgiven and seen as one of the greater writers of his generation.

But he seems to be less forgivable on his Twitter account with his harsh, criticizing, often explanation-lacking tweets that he tends to post manically in flurries spanning over hours at times. This barrage of opinionated messages can only be explained as a “tweet rage.”

The critical backlash for Ellis’ tweets are on display in an article from the Huffington Post titled “Why We’re Unfollowing Bret Easton Ellis” where they provide evidence of their disapproval in this section:

“Last year, he compared watching TV show Glee to “stepping in a puddle of HIV.” Last month, he said on Twitter that an actor was too openly gay to play a heterosexual character. In July he called an unpopular figure “a complete and total old-school fucking Hollywood loser.” When JD Salinger died, he tweeted “Yeah!! Thank God he’s finally dead. I’ve been waiting for this day for-fucking-ever. Party tonight!!!” Today he called David Foster Wallace (who didn’t like Easton Ellis’s work either) “the most tedious, overrated, tortured, pretentious writer of my generation.”

So much hate from such a seemingly nice guy.

This disapproval is mirrored by the New York Daily News as well. It’s easy to see why so many people are bothered by Ellis’ unapologetic assaults in under 140-characters. But I personally think he’s the most interesting account I follow.

I can’t say I agree with half the things he posts about; particularly the awful, ignorant remarks about legendary author of The Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger. I also find myself confused about his musical tastes which sometimes rival the rants of Patrick Bateman before axe-murdering someone.

And as a movie lover, I found his picks for best and most overrated films of 2012 quite skewed. His tweets state, “Most Overrated 2012: Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Master, Moonrise Kingdom, The Sessions, Looper…” and “Best 2012 movies so far: The Kid With A Bike, Magic Mike, Prometheus, Chronicle. And with reservations: Argo and The Dark Knight Rises…” I wrote about my love for Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master and it is currently my favorite film of the year. Before that Moonrise Kingdom held that distinction. And although I liked Prometheus I can hardly hold back a laugh at the argument for Magic Mike or Chronicle but maybe that’s just me being too snooty and a movie-criticizing prick.

“I hadn’t noticed.”

Either way, I think Ellis is great for using Twitter to its fullest; as a platform for someone to send their most opinionated thoughts out into the world. As a novelist, he can weave his personal opinions into his fiction but unless he writes an autobiography, those words will never be completely true to his own beliefs, but instead those of the story. Twitter allows him to cast his voice over the microphone. And even if he’s spewing vomit at the audience, he at least does it in style.

Another celebrity that uses social media with some distinct flair is James Deen with his blog. Now “celebrity” is in the eye of the audience here. Deen is certainly a star in the adult film industry but it is also true that he is leaking into mainstream society with interviews in GQ and Esquire. He’s porn’s boy next door.

James Deen is the real life Dirk Diggler, for better and worse. Deen ditched Diggler’s foray into the music industry for a leading role in a mainstream Hollywood film adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ The Canyons, starring opposite Lindsay Lohan. Am I throwing around the term “celebrity” too much if I call Lohan one as well?

Deen’s blog features a collage header of photos of himself ranging from him kissing a beer to posing alongside a porn actress with semen dripping from her chin. All of this labeled with a title and tagline that seems to sum it all up: “James Deen Blog: Boobs, Buttholes, Burritos.”

This site brings me such joy to read because it is everything I would have ever imagined a daily blog would be for a guy who gets paid to have sex with women every day of his life. Boogie Nights is one of my favorite films of all time and reading Deen’s blog is like sifting through the diary of Dirk Diggler if he were living in this decade.

His blog reads as a shining example of a generation of kids that have been typing most, if not all of their lives via texts, Facebook, Twitter, and school papers; but yet still see no use for punctuation or even capitalization.

“Hey, that’s not true about the punctuation. I’m always on time!”

His small paragraph rant-style blog posts consist of dozens of ellipses between sentences.

These posts also have such ridiculous, blatantly low brow, to the point titles as: “James Deen Lindsay Lohan Party Awesome Experience,” “Dillion Harper Vagina Tan Line Sex Bed,” and “Bondage BDSM Outdoor Rough Gangbang Sex Party.” And those are just the most recent posts. They go on and on like that.

Deen’s posts read like the disjointed stories from that cool, older kid that was held back a few years in junior high school; often mentioning a girl’s “really cool boobs” or how he “anally banged her asshole.” His words are enough to transport any adult male back to the gym locker room where we sat and giggled through a hand clasped over our mouths at smuggled dirty magazines.

Deen also seems to have zero attention span in his blog entries, which are probably typed out and posted from his phone while driving from one shoot to another around California. In one entry about a scene he was shooting, in what must be a form of flattery from Mr. Deen, he states: “i have never met christy mack before but she is pretty foxy and not too shabby at putting penises in her.” He goes on to display some serious drifting thoughts:

“i really adore asa (Akira) and want to make great things happen for her.  like build her a house or something.  i guess that is selfish because i have always wanted to build a house… maybe win the lottery?  nah, i would somehow try to get in on the winnings and get some money.  orgasms!!!!!!!!! i want to give her many many orgasms.  and hell i will throw in christy mack too.  FROM THIS MOMENT ON CHRISTY MACK IS THE PROPERTY OF ASA AKIRA.  it has been written therefore it is so.”

Deen stepped away from writing about sex for a moment in a post titled “VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE” where he used a bunch of exclamation points to urge his readers to go into the voting booths on Election Day and select “no” on Measure B, a California mandate requiring all porn performers to wear condoms. Deen was firmly against the act but later stated that he didn’t care if you voted for it as long as you made an educated decision: “therefore i believe you should make up your own decision based on whatever information is presented to you and i should have nothing to do with influencing your vote.”

Deen’s blog is very entertaining and never claims to be anything other than what it is; the diary of a young, successful adult film actor on the daily roller coaster that is his life. In short, it’s a blog about “boobs, buttholes, (and) burritos.” I can live with that.

After a year of blogging and using Twitter I sometimes find myself questioning the purpose of why I do either. My blog never really had a mission statement the way I see so many of my peers do. It’s always just been me talking about whatever I feel is interesting or necessary to write about. My Twitter is much the same; a micro blog for my opinions and a way of spreading links to my films and blog posts while trying to shout at celebrities.

Seeing two experts in their craft use Twitter and blogging to their benefit, the way Ellis and Deen have, gives me pride in where I’m going with my social media sites.

 

Chainsaw-Wielding Maniac Seeks Person of Similar Interests

October is already half way over, Halloween is steadily approaching, and yet I have not had anybody to watch a horror movie with lately. This is particularly perplexing because I love the horror genre. I’m a dedicated fan which basically means I have a ton of patience to sit through a genre strongly composed of trash in order to find the good ones.

I am fortunate, as are all horror fans, to have Netflix instant queue in my life which is crammed with enough scary movie titles to keep me up late and watching forever. I abuse this privilege multiple nights a week, toughing it through the cheesiest of plotlines sometimes in the name of fandom. (My most recent flick that I enjoyed was Ti West’s The Innkeepers, an eerie ghost story set in a closing hotel.)

But unfortunately I find myself watching my beloved genre alone the majority of the time. Gone are the days of going to Blockbuster with my brother and cousins to take a chance on a bevy of scary movies, load up on candy and soda, head home to cut out the lights, and connect with them in shared fear or snotty comments over the bad acting or lame special effects.

Nowadays, I can rarely find someone to accompany me to the newest horror flick in movie theatres. And with Halloween approaching and a movie theatre full of decent looking horror flicks (Sinister, House at the End of the Street, the upcoming Paranormal Activity installment) I find myself in desperate need of some companions.

This desire inspired me to send out this tweet: “I need friends who love horror movies and will go see them with me, no matter how crappy they may be. SINISTER being an example.” My hopes were met and I found a couple people to catch that movie with tomorrow night. But still, I wonder why it has been so difficult to find fellow horror lovers in my community of friends.

I frequent horror sites, I belong to internet discussion groups, I sometimes go to the conventions, I’ve interviewed horror filmmakers for my blog, hell I’ve even worked on horror movie sets alongside the likes of Doug Bradley aka Pinhead from Hellraiser; and yet I still have trouble finding someone to watch a scary movie with.

Consider this an open letter to anyone who doesn’t pass over the horror genre as unoriginal or hold contempt for a bad flick every now and then. This is a classified ad for anyone who has seen every installment in the Halloween franchise and knows Rob Zombie’s reboots were plainly bad.

If you like gore, mutilations, cuss words, things that go bump in the night, people in masks, ghosts, demons, witches, shaky cam found footage, chainsaws, killer klowns from outer space, and the occasional naked lady then I’d like to talk with you. Let’s watch a movie together.

“BE MY FRIEND!”

Paul Thomas Anderson: The Master of American Cinema

 

(Minor spoiler at the end.)

Paul Thomas Anderson’s sixth feature film The Master is being hailed as a new American classic by many critics. This is not the first time the words “American classic” have been paired together in regards to Anderson’s work. Five years ago critics were saying the same thing about There Will Be Blood, Anderson’s loose adaption of the Upton Sinclair novel Oil! starring Daniel Day-Lewis.

It has become evident with Anderson’s last two films; both period pieces, both providing comments on the American man’s greed and fragmented mental state, both featuring an indisputably captivating performance by lead actors (Day-Lewis and Joaquin Phoenix), and each a standing symbol of patient filmmaking, that this writer-director has carved his place amongst not only the great filmmakers of his time but in all of American cinema.

Anderson may be best known for the 1997 picture Boogie Nights but it is clear that his ability and style transcends grandiose subject matter like the pornography industry, drug abuse, and violence (all of which are highly entertaining and showcased well in the film).

The 1999 film Magnolia really marked the day Hollywood handed Paul Thomas Anderson the key to the city; the freedom to make any film he desired and he pushed that sports car to the limit, crashed through the barricade and left the audience to watch as it engulfed in flames.

Since then Anderson has shown great versatility in his characters, storylines, and casting decisions; particularly when he showed the world that notorious goofball Adam Sandler had some serious acting chops in the one of a kind art house flick, Punch-Drunk Love.

But it was There Will Be Blood that marked a more distinct change in his filmmaking choices. This was a different film. It was slow, calculated, and mostly subdued except for a few casualties in the oil fields and bowling alleys.

The Master follows a very similar pattern. Phoenix’s portrayal of a post-WWII unhinged and impressionable drunk is a good rival for Day-Lewis’ greed-driven oil tycoon. In this film, Anderson again looks at Man with an unflinching eye. He does not cut to the most entertaining or high octane moments of a man’s life but instead zeroes in on the subtle, defining moments of a man’s character.

Anderson asks the questions of life that everyone finds themselves asking at one time. Phoenix’s character, Freddie Quell, seeks someone with all the answers and believes he finds it in Lancaster Dodd, as played brilliantly by Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Film has the inherent problem of relying on an ending; some viable closure for the story that just never happens in real life. Life keeps going. The sun always rises again even after the credits roll on a particular chapter of our lives. Anderson closes this film’s unanswerable questions beautifully.

With all its ambiguity, Freddie Quell leaves the audience with the assurance and self-actualization that there are no masters in this world but instead people, knowledgeable of personal flaws and understanding of the ability to control when necessary.